Our need to maintain good oral health is balanced by cost. The average patient provides about $800 of revenue to a dentist each year, largely through group dental insurance but including also some out-of-pocket costs. In addition, patients must buy dental products such as night guards, electric tooth brushes that are not covered by insurance.
One effective way to economize is to make sure that one is getting the minimal amount of work needed for maintaining good oral health with positive long term impact. Sometimes cosmetic needs arise but can be put off until later, but other times cosmetic needs and basic dental needs go hand-in-hand in cases such as a lost tooth. Ask the dentist for a cost-benefit analysis in terms of long term oral health, and make clear that aesthetics come later.
An example of this might be the following. Suppose one is afflicted by a large cavity that has affected a large fraction of the enamel of a tooth. There may be two options. In one, the cavity is filled and a porcelain cap or metal cap covers it for further strengthening and protection. In the other, the cavity is filled and left alone. The first option is more expensive and longer-term, but the second is much less expensive and also lasts many years.
Astute patients will also know to avoid some cosmetic procedures unless absolutely necessary. For example, teeth become stained by coffee or smoking. The stains may be removed by whitening methods. However, it turns out that whitening procedures differ quite a bit in cost because of the differential use of underlying technology. Old methods allow for submersion in carbamide peroxide whereas newer methods incorporate the use of powerful lasers to activate and remove stains.
Procedures may cost a lot of money at once, but buying oral health products is a drain on finances over time. To save money, look for bulk discounts at large wholesale suppliers like Costco. Buying toothbrushes or electric brush refills at the supermarket misses out on leveraging your money with volume purchases. However, make sure to replace a brush when the bristles start fraying as it’s an indicator of reduced brush efficacy.
Electrical toothbrushes are a convenience because of their high speed and power at removing plaque. But the prices vary quite a bit. There’s room to shop around for one that suits both your purposes and your budget. For example, a rechargeable base costs extra but saves batteries. However, considering that batteries need to be changed only once every 9 months means that effectively over the life of the toothbrush the rechargeable base may cost more.